Dear DC: What’s Going On With Your Writers and Editors?

Action Comics #19

I’ve been quite critical of DC and how their creative teams keep jumping around for many of the books. In the first 2 years of many titles, we have seen many a creative team switch after only a single story arc, which sometimes does not give a strong indication of the future of where DC, its editors, and its writers and artists want to take a character. We saw that one of DC’s books lost its writer after a single issue (James Robinson removed himself as writer of Masters of the Universe after issue 1 – OK, it’s not in the New 52 but it’s still DC!) and that seemed like a huge shock. Well today, we saw a bigger bomb drop when 2 writers announced they were no longer associated with the books they had signed on for with DC… before their first issues even made it to print to pick up.

The first announcement of the day was by Andy Diggle who announced via his Twitter feed that he was no longer associated with the upcoming run on Action Comics. Yes, the run that’s getting huge advertising press in the last few weeks of DC comics in the final few pages of almost every book – including a multi-page spread in several books released today – has left the project. As his Twitter feed states:

diggle1

 

diggle2

 

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However, not one to hold back on promoting what else he is working on, Diggle followed up with this:

diggle4

 

I think this latter tweet was used more to show that he is still around and his work can still be found for many of his fans, of which I, for one, am enjoying his run on Doctor Who right now and have enjoyed The Losers in the past.

But think about that… One of DC’s flagship titles is losing its writer before the much-anticipated and highly advertised issue hits  the stands? That’s shocking! But, hot off the heels of that announcement on Twitter this morning comes a second announcement of another creator leaving the books he is signed on for and have yet to be released!

We previously announced the news that not only is Geoff Johns leaving the pages of Green Lantern after issue #20, but that the entire GL family creative team was getting a major shakeup as well. With that shakeup, Joshua Hale Fialkov was slated to be the writer on both Green Lantern Corps and Red Lanterns, but based on what he posted to his own blog earlier today it appears that plans are changing…

[quote]Just a quick note to confirm what everyone knows, I am no longer the writer of GLC and Red Lanterns for DC Comics. There were editorial decisions about the direction of the book that conflicted with the story I was hired to tell, and I felt that it was better to let DC tell their story the way they want. I’m grateful for the opportunity and I’ll miss working with the entire Green Lantern team.[/quote]

Wow. Now, I’ll be honest… I was quite critical of Fialkov’s work in Alpha: Big Time #2 recently and although I can appreciate I, Vampire I never continued to pick up the book (with DC I was leaning more towards the super hero genre – I didn’t even continue to pick up All-Star Western as an example and I love Palmiotti and Gray as writers), mostly due to the fact that there are only so many monthlies I can get. To say that I may not be his biggest fan is true, but I cannot say that he’s a bad writer at all. His work is not suiting me as something I want to read, and that’s fine; you can’t please all the people all the time. However, reading his I, Vampire run I do have respect for him as a writer and I know he is talented.

So why did I just say that? Because it could be inferred that the writers are the problem, but when I look back at things this may not be the case. I don’t recall a time when so many creative team changes happened so frequently as that within the New 52. (I could be wrong – this is just a statement based upon my own memory.) But what else has happened with DC since the New 52 launched?

  • The announcement that Gail Simone was removed from Batgirl. It turns out she never left for the long haul, but was gone for a brief interim story arc currently underway, but the story making the rounds was that it was an editorial decision to remove her as the writer on the book.
  • Rob Liefeld publicly stated that he had major editorial issues with DC and severed his relationship with them.

Now, many may say that Liefeld was just causing trouble because they are not the biggest fans of his work at times, but let’s truly look at this. He called out the editorial staff as being the reason he was leaving DC. Simone mentioned she was removed as a result of the editor on the book. Diggle played it safe by not commenting on the specifics of his departure, but Fialkov explicitly said that there were editorial decisions about where the title was going and it clashed with the story he wanted to tell. So… If his story clashed with the goal of the editor, why bring him on to the book in the first place?

The question I am posing right now is: What is going on at DC? It seems like some writers are working smoothly with their editors to turn out quality product month over month (I’m looking at you, Batman people) but then other books just cannot get their foothold (Green Arrow is on its… who knows how many creative teams since it relaunched). In the days of old, there was at least the perception of synergy, but maybe I’m simply nostalgic for those days when the internet was not around to get this information. Well, it is here, and it’s gonna happen and we have to deal. Maybe there needs to be a better matchup of creative juices BEFORE you bring on a creative team – doing these kind of changes after some major announcements just don’t seem to work well on a book. It lowers confidence in them and the team behind the scenes to bring me a quality book month after month. I am a die-hard Green Lantern family reader and collect all 4 titles (soon to be 5), but now… Now, I’m not sure of how great a story I am going to get from several of these books because there is obviously conflict. Although Robert Venditti, whom I love as a writer thanks to X-O Manowar and his recent continued presence on Demon Knights, and who is also taking over from Johns on Green Lantern, will be co-plotting GLC going forward… Is that enough?

This is not the creative team that pitched for the book and won. This is (sorry to say, as I am sure everyone involved is quite talented otherwise DC would not have even called them) the backup team. If the stories these guys wanted to pitch were the winners, they would have been chosen in the first place, right? Instead, they’ve been called up due to an opening on the ice. (Yes, a hockey reference.) But the question here really is: is the problem with the writers or the editors? Where and what is the conflict? Where is the resolution management? Why go to the trouble of moving forward with a team if the team itself cannot even get themselves organized? That’s a team destined to not make the playoffs without some miracle. This is almost like that movie The Replacements where a backup team comes in and surprises everyone… but there, they had a new team and a new coach. I’ve seen no information about the editors also making a change, just the writers, so who knows what’s really going on.

This kind of activity lowers my confidence in DC. I pay for quality books, but of late (in my personal opinion only) DC has started to lose the quality that they have been building for 2 years with this relaunched world, with some obvious exceptions.

But I pose this question again: What is going on, DC? Get your ducks in a row. Get your team working as a team, not as a bunch of individuals. Look at the amazing collaboration you’ve had with creative teams and editors in the past and use that – take the Wolfman/Pérez creative team in launching The New Teen Titans in the 80s as an example. There was guidance, but a lot of freedom to tell an amazing story. There was direction, but there was also the creator’s ability to turn it into something amazing. Leverage that. Bring that back. Otherwise, dare I say it, my DC pull list is going to drop significantly. You may not care about one individual doing that, but I am fairly certain I’m not alone.

Comments that appear above as opinion are solely that of the author of this article and in no way represent the thoughts, opinions, or feelings of ComicBooked.com, its owners, or other writers and contributors to the content published on this site and its affiliated sites.

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Comments (24)

jeffhillwriter

Interesting editorial, Kelly. The only decision that DC has made that makes me unsure as of late is that of re-hiring Gail Simone. In my opinion, it sets a dangerous precedent that if you complain loud enough online (or have your "fans" do it for you) you can get your way. She was fired. I don't really care about the reasons, personally, but as far as these other creators listed, I won't miss a single one of them. "Professional" reasons means one thing for me: They were told what to do and didn't like it. Well, they are free to leave. Their creators, yes, but not a single one of the names listed are prolific or talented enough to always get their way. Johns and Snyder might be able to do what they want (within reason), but let's face it, the likes of Diggle, Fialkov, Liefeld, and (puke) Simone simply have not, cannot, and will not EVER be good enough to throw hissy fits and win… Except for Simone, but I think you know where I'm going with that, so I'll just leave it alone for now. In regards to your other comments of backup writers taking the spotlight, I have mixed feelings. I love the fact that writers like James Tynion IV are taking a bigger role in the New 52, and I love it when new talent gets recognized and become big names, but I am also hesitant to support new writers on books that I already love and care about because of, well, the writers who built that love and trust. I love Scott Lobdell. And I love James Tynion IV. But is it really smart to take a writer off a book that is doing well with someone who might not have the pre-existing fanbase? And Demon Knights… Shouldn't that just have done the natural thing and ended at its peak when Paul Cornell left the book? So there's my rant. Great food for thought, this editorial. After all is said and done, I do want to say one final thing, though. I remain extremely optimistic. Tough decisions are being made. And though they might be scary, I think they're going to be the right ones.

To address the Demon Knights content… I loved Cornell's run and he told his story. Venditti's story uses some of the same characters, many years later. It's not a direct take over. Kind of like what Palmiotti and Gray will be doing with Batwing. it's a whole new story, new character, new take. It's not a continuation.

I'm not saying backup writers are bad; not in the least. I agree, Tynion is a good writer. But my commentary is basically this: Creators and editors do have differences of opinion. But DC seems to be having this heat up quite publicly. Marvel has had differences and new creative teams jump on board, but I don't recall seeing anything on Twitter, Facebook, or blogs about this kind of departure. I'm looking at it from the standpoint of a fan – too many cooks in the kitchen, each constantly changing the recipe means that my enjoyment of the meal is variable with each visit. Marvel has done this in the past, but the internet never made the vocalizations as… well, vocal. Remember with Johns, he is the CCO for all of DC as well as writing some in your face books. As he sets the direction for the most part alongside a few others, there are very few editors who will have the power to override him. Snyder is the golden child right now, and with good reason – he is that good. If he were to complain about an editor I'm sure the editor would be elsewhere and Snyder still on the book.

I'm more concerned that DC is being taken down a wrong path, with an internal team who cannot work together and who see the movie franchise as the ultimate goal to make money. DC is owned by Warner Brothers, and apart from Batman their movie field has been lackluster the last decade or so and they are pinning their hopes on Man of Steel. I'm more concerned that their eye is on that prize vs. using both mediums as a viable source of income with different (but probably significantly overlapping) audiences. Even though I love movies, comics are still my medium of choice for storytelling and I'm worried that the editors are focusing on what they want in a story, but not letting the actual creators tell the story they pitched and were told "you have the job – tell your stories… so long as your stories are these ones". If you allow the pitch and award the creators the privilege of telling the story, at least give them the ability to tell it. Yes, under guidance and direction, but for what is best for the DCU and the readers, not for the possibility of a movie down the road. Which is where I wanted to go above but I was long enough already.

This is indeed troubling. If it is actually a problem with "creative direction" or whatever, then I'll be curious to see what upcoming storylines DC has in store that were so repulsive.

Don't forget that George Perez was run off Superman very quickly after the relaunch of the new 52. His chief complaint was that he had no idea how he should be writing the story since Grant Morrison was doing Action Comics as 5 years prior to Superman. He also said that he received no input from Morrison at all.

Another matter is how the new 52 was launched. Guys like Scott Snyder said that when he pitched his Batman stuff, he had no idea the reboot was coming. It seems only guys like Didio, Johns, and Lee knew it was happening. DC needs to get it together. They are hemorrhaging talent due to their disorganization and arrogance.

jeffhillwriter

I honestly think the main point that isn't being made (or is maybe just too thinly-veiled) is that creators/editors should work TOGETHER… And no matter what, fans always take the creators side. What I mean by this is simple: Some people should be fired and it is none of our business. Perhaps there should just be a "no technology" thing for some writers. I don't know how that could be done, but perhaps it should be part of the contract. Sort of a "shut up unless you're promoting stuff" clause. Or maybe all of the Big Guns at DC are just dicks. Could be that, too. I sure hope not, though. I say let the creators go. Maybe they'll do something amazing for Marvel or another company… And maybe DC will get some other fresh faces a chance (or convince their heavy hitters to tackle characters that they should be doing anyway).

jeffhillwriter

Me, too. It's fine to disagree, but they get no respect from me. I won't be following ANY of these creators. How can I trust them when they can't stick around to tell a story with their favorite characters? There are thousands of people out there who would LOVE to take their place, but just can't seem to break into the industry. I have no sympathy for quitters… No matter how much they feel their creativity is being stunted. It's called the real world, and even imaginary worlds must adhere to some rules.

jeffhillwriter

I totally feel like there should have just been one Superman title. That would have (and still could) fix everything wrong with the New 52, in my opinion. The Superman books are the weakest of the lot and should be the best. Just cancel them all and put Jim Lee and Scott Snyder on Action. There. Problem solved. And bring George Perez (both a legend and a contemporary great) back onto some other book that he can actually use his talents on without being confused. I don't like the New 52 concept, but it happened… Almost two years ago. It's not going away any time soon, so rather than break stuff more and constantly alienating their potential fans, they should just figure it out and hire the right people to begin with. I don't think it's editorials' fault at all. I think it's creators getting massive egos that don't match their bodies of work. If you can't play by the rules, you don't get to be one of the big creators who breaks the status quo. Look at Geoff Johns. He literally worked his way up from the bottom of the barrel and now he's (finally) getting to tell the stories he wants to tell, with little to no boundaries. I think they've got some things to iron out, but as a whole, I stand (happily) corrected on the fate of the DCnU.

I think, right now, DC needs to look at their team and streamline. Jeff's recent comments of too many books rings true – they are still trying to stick to 52 books a month. Hence the New 52. And this may be where the problems lie – editors and creators not getting along, trying to do too much… I don't doubt they had a grand plan, but it almost sounds like that plan was not shared amongst the masses.

But streamlining for the effectiveness of the reader may do the job, when resources who can work together are scarce. The 3 Justice League books out this week – all having Geoff Johns name with a writing credit – also have the same individuals as editors for all 3: Kate Stewart and Brian Cunningham. It appears that Johns can work with these editors to create strong stories, and it shows.

I wouldn't go as far as to say that I lose all respect for creators who "give up" as we don't know the details. There are many creators who want to tell their stories and are hired to do that… and when they are misled, they live. That is also life – if you're led in a certain direction and then that's taken away from you, you move on. I've done that with jobs in the past – we're hiring you to do this. Great! But… Now that you're here… You're going to do this which has nothing to do with what your background, experience, or discussion on what your contract says you will do. I passed and left. It was that simple. It is life that you have to do what you don't like, but at the end of the day you also have to look at yourself in a mirror. If you're a creator and you cannot be proud of your work, why would you stay?

Back to the streamlining… Get a handful of strong editors and have them manage, coordinate, and understand what's going on. If some creators are being tight-lipped… tough. Share with your editor. The creators are responsible for creating an engaging story; the editors are responsible for ensuring that everything stays solid across the board. But the teams have to work together. If they can't, then just like any other work relationship, it's not a fit. Someone has to go. If I made it sound like it was one team or another, that wasn't intent – but some house cleaning needs to be done SOMEWHERE to get teams that work harmoniously. A happy team and a consolidated universe = creators who are happy to work with editors = better stories = more readers = more revenue.

davidgillette

It's editors trying to put squares in round holes with writers that don't fit the material along with too many guys doing things like it was the 1980s all over again. Some writers aren't delivering, but I'm inclined to say it's mostly the editors over there.

Skott_Jimenez

I need to find the time to read all of this but I would have to say that the editorial dept at DC hasn't released any statements so we don't know their side of this. All I've seen is creators lashing out online in ways that make them look like spoiled prima donnas.
It's easy to simply jump on the editors and publishers when talent isn't happy. But there are two sides to every story and I'm always interested in hearing both sides.

Ever since the New 52 things have been…off.

Robinson left Masters of the Universe because someone at Mattel freaked out over the originally approved story and demanded changes. They've got a very long history of doing that to writers of the comic because they keep thinking no one's going to buy the toys afterwards.

That's why its surprising to see the stuff Giffen seems to have planned for the ongoing. That's the kind of stories that usually freaks out Mattel.

jeffhillwriter

"A happy team and a consolidated universe = creators who are happy to work with editors = better stories = more readers = more revenue." Yes. That. That times 100. Hopefully DC listens to that. Let's be loud and obnoxious and maybe we'll get our way. 🙂

jeffhillwriter

It's too bad, really. Because I think lesser titles are WAY overshadowing how great a lot of the New 52 stuff is. I'd say just axe 'em and give up on the "New 52" idea of having 52 comics at all times. I'd be happier with say, 30 great titles total, than what they currently have with 20 great titles, 20 okay titles, and 12 pretty bad titles.

jeffhillwriter

Part of me is saying, "Good for them for acting like adults and not spouting off a quick emotional response!", but another part of me is saying, "This is a PR nightmare, guys… You've gotta say something."

jeffhillwriter

I don't think anyone is going to disagree with that statement. I think the disagreement comes up with two things: 1) Just how "off" and 2) why / who is to blame.

jeffhillwriter

I'd heard that as well. Seems strange to me, but I guess some companies fear change.

When does DC realize that the New 52 as a naming convention and title count just does not work anymore? It has been 2 years, not exactly new anymore and why create problems trying to stick to a magic number?

I really like this because it keeps me happy to never read DC. (I also don't like super hero stories).

I do agree with Jeff about publicly stating that you get fired, and then two hours later you get rehired. The use of social media when ti comes to work is such a slippery slope that the Simone isn't really black and white. Simone has a huge fan base because people like that she's a woman writing comics, and people really love her Batgirl run. This idea of firing Gail means that there will be less female comic writers (of which there are already so few) in a male dominated industry that sucks at writing well rounded female characters. (Not that I've read Batgirl, or anything by Gail. And it'll probably stay that way because I don't see her overall appeal).

So Simone is more of a symbol than anything else and people want her around.

In fact, the only reason we KNOW that these issues in DC are happening are because creators are coming to twitter (and their blogs) to talk about their experiences. Had Gail never said anything, we never would've known that she was fired and no one would've rallied behind her. I think it's total BS to fire someone via e-mail, out of nowhere, but I honestly don't know the entire situation since she didn't go into depth about it, or do an interview about it or anything.

In fact, I wonder if it's necessary to publicly state that you're leaving a title at all and I wonder if it was necessary for Gail to announce her firing to her fans. (I'm not so sure. And I'm leaning toward the idea that maybe it was manipulative. She'd have to be in complete denial to not understand the power of her audience and what that would mean if she was no longer part of a popular title).

And what I find interesting is that aside from Gail – who has the added dilemma of being a woman in a male industry – many artists leave titles without much cry for them to be brought back. Riley Rossmo left BEDLAM – an Image title – and I did tweet about it (he tweeted me back) over creative differences with Spencer. But no one on Twitter from what I saw was aflutter with this news. It was business as usual – another creator gone. I think DC is at the center of it because their creators have large fan bases, and DC is so integral to comic culture that people pay lots of attention to them.

Also Kelly, don't forget how the artist for the Orson Scott Card's Superman jumped ship too. They found a new artist to replace him real quick.

Re: Card: Yes, the artist jumped ship as he did not want to be associated with the controversy; he wanted his art to be his legacy. And I can respect that. And they didn't find a new artist – in fact, the story is currently shelved because of the controversy.

And yes, we only know what's going on because the creators are stating it. Because DC says nothing. We are only getting one side of the story, but that's only because having one side is better than no sides. Some, like Andy Diggle, kept it simple stating that he's no longer on the title. Why is that important? Because a number of people were willing to give the book a try because his name was attached to it. I can honestly say I've never picked up a book because someone was editing it, but I do regularly try out new books when I see a writer or artist on it that I enjoy. Is Paul Cornell writing? I'll try it out – I did that with Saucer Country and thoroughly enjoyed it; I also did that with the new Wolverine title which I had no intention of picking up regularly… and now I might.

I do think it's necessary to make announcements like Diggle – factual, to the point. Fialkov took it a step further and left a simple statement as to why – decisions editorially. I can respect both of those reasons. I do agree that Simone took it too far, but the way it went about with her (if true) was also quite rude and insulting. But she should have had the higher ground and not thrown her version of a tantrum to get her way. It actually did leave a bad taste in my mouth and, although I do enjoy Batgirl, it's not what it once was.

When artists leave, it's usually not about editorial decisions, but the want to go to other projects. Writers and editors work closely together, as do writers and artists. There's not a ton of editor to artist interaction, but yes, when an artist leaves that has a name there is an uproar. When David Aja wasn't on Hawkeye there was a "what's going on?". When Alex Ross was not on Masks, I got upset – because 50% of the reason I bought that book was for his art (the other half was writer Chris Roberson).

People follow writers and artists they enjoy. I'm one of those. I don't raise a stink as much to artists as there are very few artists I'll follow from book to book, but writers I follow. But writer-artist combinations – such as Wolfman-Perez or Denny O'Neil and Neil Adams… I'll buy those books in an instant, and it doesn't matter what the subject is. Because I can respect their work, The big thing here is: Comics are focused now on the trades and what they can get for a short term return. It used to be the day that Claremont could set something in focus in Uncanny X-Men and not get around to it for 3 years… and that was ok. Now, the only people who do that are Morrison (with Robin) and Bendis (with a ^&*load of things). Kirkman is doing it with Walking Dead and Willingham is doing it with Fables – great stories, long term, and have chapters in the middle. It's not a bunch of stories for the sake of it.

Comics need to be about delivering a quality story with strong visuals. Not every story will suit every reader. Not every writer will be for every reader. Not every artist will be for every reader. But the big thing here is to respect the fans. If I'm going to shell out $4 a book, I want to know who's delivering me my content. I pre-order so I get what I want, so I want to know who is writing it. For me, it's almost always about writer first. I've dropped books because of the writer, and will continue to do so. But there has to be some disclosure to the people who buy the books. Was I going to buy Action because of Diggle? Yes. Am I now? No. Was I considering dropping GLC and RL because Fialkov was writing? Yes, because I was not impressed with Alpha. Did I? No, because I was willing to give him a shot there (not every writer works with every title either).

It's a matter of giving the reader the information to make an informed decision as to where to spend his money. If DC is being tight lipped, then it falls to the creators to make the announcement. The respect for the fan's money needs to be respected, and that's where DC is not always making the right decisions. In some cases and some teams, yes; Greg Capullo was forthright early on when he was taking a 1-issue break and promoting Amanda Connor's work in Batman. I appreciated that. But that came from the creators, not the company.

jeffhillwriter

Is this Stir the Pot Saturday? Hahaha. I'll behave and refrain from more Simone-bashing (but she does suck) and just say that I really hope this matter gets resolved… OFF Twitter and inside the offices of DC. And I'm sure it will. Every company has growing pains (even super old ones) and I just see this as progress. I agree with Kelly's comment of about "If DC is being tight lipped, it falls to the creators to make the announcement…" but in most cases, I don't think it's really the case of being sneaky or secretive, but rather, formulating an actual rational, well-thought-out, and professional statement. Companies speak with their brains, but sometimes (most times), creators speak with their hearts… which can be tacky at times.

If you were a DC comics editor, you would fit in perfectly. And we would all continue to suffer for it.

You are clearly, no writer. If you were, then you would understand how counterproductive an attitude is to great storytelling. It's micro managing. How could you trust them? Are you serious? Let me put a lockdown on your imagination and stifle any creativity and character development you might have, and when I drive you to quit because i'm trying to tell you how to be a writer, everyone can call you an arse because you "didn't stick around to tell a story about their favorite character…"
It's thinking like that that is EXACTLY the problem.
For some people, doing what is right is more important than doing what they're told. Obviously not for you, but many.

Companies, especially DC, DO NOT THINK WITH THEIR BRAINS. They use their wallet for that. And because of that, we are making their wallet much lighter every month.

And another thing, you're saying that it's "Tacky" for a CREATOR to speak with their heart? My god, have you any idea how the creative process works?
What makes a good creator, writer, etc…. is that they CAN SPEAK with their hearts. And they have the ability to translate that onto a piece of paper using their words and pictures. It's not a common skill. Those that can't do it, complain or become editors.
Yeah, good idea….Tell the one person, the creator or storyteller, that it's tacky to speak with their heart.
My god, you just want to put the final nail in the coffin of modern mythology.
Who needs a good story when we can fatten our bottom line for the short term gain?

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